The Present Moment
Tricycle | Winter 2014
The “present moment” is on everyone’s lips nowadays. But do we really know what we mean by it? The philosophers of antiquity help us get underneath the cliché.
In the history of Buddhism, popular movements that present meditation as a relatively simple practice, accessible without extensive training, are nothing new. It happened in 8th-century China, and again in 19th-century Burma. And—growing directly out of the Burmese movement—it is happening again in today’s secularized mindfulness movement, represented most notably in the practice of MBSR, or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.
Wherever such movements flourish, a backlash quickly develops. No one denies the potential benefit from learning to calm or focus the mind, but many Buddhist teachers worry that an approach may be easy and give immediate benefits and yet risk discarding essential elements in the Buddha’s teachings. And so the battle is joined. Does the secularized mindfulness movement zero in on the most vital points, or is it just “McMindfulness,” a simplified, less nourishing version of dharma that turns meditation into a form of self-help?